The EPA is following through on its commitment to stay portions of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas industry while the agency works through the reconsideration process.
Using its Clean Air Act (CAA) authority, the agency is issuing a 90-day stay of the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pumps, and professional engineer certification requirements from the 2016 rule. Sources do not need to comply with these requirements while the 90-day stay is in effect. EPA’s action is in line with President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order, which directed the agency to review the oil and gas rules.
In June 2016, EPA issued updated standards for new, reconstructed and modified oil and gas sources. Since issuing the final rules last year, EPA has received several petitions to reconsider aspects of the New Source Performance Standards. In an April 18, 2017, letter to petitioners, the agency announced its intent to reconsider certain aspects of the rule, including the fugitive emissions requirements. This action also grants reconsideration and stays for 90 days the pneumatic pump and professional engineer certification requirements in the rule.
As part of the reconsideration process, EPA expects to prepare a proposed rule, which will allow for public comment. Additional information on the stay and reconsideration is available at https://www.epa.gov/controlling-air-pollution-oil-and-natural-gas-industry.
Facility Operators Advised to Minimize Releases during Hazardous Weather Events
As hurricane season approaches, the EPA issued a Hazardous Weather Release Prevention and Reporting alert to remind facility operators of certain regulations that require minimization of chemical releases during process shutdown operations. This alert is designed to increase awareness among facility operators about their obligation to operate facilities safely and report chemical releases in a timely manner.
The alert specifies operational release minimization requirements and clarifies reporting requirements, including exemptions. Unlike some natural disasters, the onset of a hurricane is predictable and allows for early preparations to lessen its effect on a facility. Before hurricane force winds and associated storm surge flooding damage industrial processes, the alert recommends that operators take preventive action by safely shutting down processes, or otherwise operate safely under emergency procedures.
The alert and requirements are available at https://www.epa.gov/natural-disasters/hazardous-weather-release-prevention-and-reporting. In the event of a hazardous weather incident, EPA provides emergency information at https://www.epa.gov/natural-disasters.
DOT to Hold Public Meeting for Input on United Nations’ GHS System
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has announced a public meeting on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, to discuss proposals in preparation for the 51st session of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UNSCETDG) to be held July 3 to July 7, 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland.
During this meeting, PHMSA is requesting comments relative to potential new work items that may be considered for inclusion in its international agenda. PHMSA will also provide an update on recent actions to enhance transparency and stakeholder interaction through improvements to the international standards portion of its Website.
The PHMSA public meeting will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT, in Conference rooms 8, 9, and 10 at the DOT Headquarters Conference Center, West Building, at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
Advanced meeting registration is required. Attendees must pre-register for these meetings by completing the form at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/STXPWNX. Failure to pre-register may delay your access into the DOT Headquarters building. Additionally, if you are attending in-person, arrive early to allow time for security checks necessary to access the building. Conference call-in and “live meeting” capability will also be provided. Conference dial-in information is available toll free at: 888-675-2535, Access code: 3614708.
Information on call-in and live meeting access will be posted when available at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat/regs/international under Upcoming Events.
Proposed New Particulate Matter Rules in Ohio
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), Division of Air Pollution Control (DAPC) performed a review of its particulate matter rules (OAC Chapter 3745-17) to satisfy the requirements of Section 119.032 of the Ohio Revised Code (five-year review). The DAPC found the following rules to be necessary and with need for changes. The DAPC has proposed to amend the particulate matter rules to remove facilities and emission units that have been permanently shutdown since the last review and to add an additional compliance option for certain facilities, including utilities, that are required to use a continuous opacity monitor to comply with visible emissions requirements. Other changes can be found in the Rule Synopsis included with the rule package.
A public hearing on these rule changes will be conducted on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 10:30 AM at Ohio EPA, Lazarus Government Center, 50 W. Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus, Ohio. All visitors to Ohio EPA must register at the Security desk in the lobby upon arrival. Please bring photo identification (such as a valid driver’s license). For security reasons, visitors are required to wear their badge at all times while in the building. Please arrive early to complete these procedures.
Pursuant to Part D of Title I of the CAA, Ohio EPA is required to establish a state implementation plan (SIP) for the attainment and maintenance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The above-mentioned rules are a part of Ohio’s SIP and the proposed amendments will be submitted to USEPA as a modification of the SIP. The above-mentioned hearing will be considered the public hearing for the SIP submittal.
Interested persons are entitled to attend or be represented at the hearing and give written or oral comments on these rule changes. All oral comments presented at the hearing, and all written statements submitted at the hearing or by the close of business on July 11, 2017, will be considered by Ohio EPA prior to final action on this rule. Written statements submitted after July 11, 2017, may be considered as time and circumstances permit, but will not be part of the official record of the hearing.
These rules are available on DAPC’s webpage for electronic downloading. The URL is: http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/DAPCrules.aspx and see the information under the “proposed rules” tab. Questions regarding accessing the website should be directed to Paul Braun at 614-644-3734; other questions or comments about these rules should be directed to Michael Maleski at Ohio EPA, 614-644-1961, firstname.lastname@example.org.
$94,078 Fine for Stormwater Permit Violations
The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Executive Officer approved a $94,078 penalty against Modern Stairways, Inc. of Spring Valley, California, for long-standing water quality violations related to industrial activities.
Modern Stairways, a concrete production and metal fabricating facility approximately 12 miles east of San Diego, failed to implement proper management practices to prevent runoff as required by the state’s industrial stormwater permit, and this may have allowed pollutants such as concrete waste to be washed off into storm drains that connect to the Sweetwater River. The river flows through the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and into San Diego Bay.
“BMPs (Best Management Practices) can be simple, inexpensive measures such as daily sweeping and covering of containers. It’s such a small effort that can make such a big difference to water quality,” said Laurie Walsh, senior water resource control engineer with the San Diego Water Board. “That’s why it’s so frustrating when informed businesses ignore these requirements.”
Board staff demonstrated that Modern Stairways, which has had San Diego Water Board permits since the 1970s, has been in violation of its permit requirements for more than five years despite constant inspections and reminders from Water Board staff.
State and San Diego County inspection reports from 2012 through 2015 show the site had open containers of oil and antifreeze, trash, and at times up to two inches of concrete dust throughout the facility. When it rains, these pollutants may have washed off the site into the Sweetwater River. In sufficient quantities, or over long periods of time, these chemicals can damage local ecosystems. Concrete dust reduces the clarity of water and significantly alters its pH, which harms the ability of organisms to breathe.
According to the Board’s documents, Modern Stairways also failed to turn in an annual monitoring report, pay four years of permit fees, or re-enroll for permit coverage.
“Administrative violations are included in the penalty amount because when a facility ignores them, especially after such a long period of time, its operators gain an unfair economic advantage over their competitors,” said Chiara Clemente, the San Diego Water Board’s enforcement coordinator. “Many of the industrial stormwater permit requirements have been widely implemented across the state for over a decade, and we expect responsible business owners and operators to know how to comply, or hire someone who does.”
A copy of the San Diego Water Board’s Order assessing penalties is available for review on the Board’s website.
Ohio to Revise Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Rules to Implement GHS
On behalf of the director of the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), Ohio EPA has made available a draft for comment of amended Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rule 3750-30-25. The U.S. EPA recently amended its hazardous chemical reporting regulations to conform to revisions in OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard due to OSHA’s adoption of the Global Harmonizing System (GHS) classification and labeling of chemicals. EPA replaced the existing five hazard categories to two hazard categories as they listed and four hazards that were not specifically addressed (i.e., simple asphyxiant, combustible dust, pyrophoric gas, and hazard not otherwise classified). Ohio EPA plans to amend OAC Rule 3750-30-25 to incorporate the amended federal language.
The Division of Air Pollution Control (DAPC) has requested comments on the draft rules and the draft business impact analysis (BIA) before DAPC proposes the rules to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). DAPC and the SERC will be accepting comments on these documents through Friday, July 7, 2017.
Recycling Company Sued for Alleged Illegal Dumping and Destruction of Protected Wetlands
A New Hampshire-based recycling and renewable energy company, its manager, and its operator have been sued for allegedly damaging protected wetland resources, illegally transporting and storing both solid andhazardous waste, and failing to report releases of hazardous material, Attorney General Maura Healey announced on June 1.
The complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that C&G Land Reclamation & Renewable Energy Solutions LLC (C&G Renewables), its manager, Clyde Holland, and its operator, William P. Trainor Sr., violated numerous environmental laws and regulations in their operation of an illegal solid waste disposal site in Salisbury.
“These defendants recklessly created an illegal and hazardous dump in Salisbury and damaged valuable wetlands, endangering the public and the environment,” said AG Healey. “We will aggressively prosecute those who flagrantly violate laws put in place to protect the health and safety of our communities.”
The AG’s complaint alleges that the defendants altered and filled approximately 14,500 square feet of protected wetlands at the company’s property on Lafayette Road in Salisbury with sand and solid waste, including steel construction material and concrete rubble. The defendants’ alterations to the wetlands destroyed wildlife habitat and vegetation and changed drainage characteristics and flow patterns to Smallpox Brook. The defendants then allegedly failed to comply with two enforcement orders issued by the Salisbury Conservation Commission requiring restoration of the damaged wetlands.
The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants illegally transported solid waste, including creosote-treated railroad bridge timbers, concrete rubble, rebar, bricks, and construction debris, and continued to store that solid waste at the site without the required solid-waste permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Salisbury Board of Health. Despite multiple stop work orders issued by the Town of Salisbury, the defendants have allegedly continued to bring solid waste onto the property.
“Illegal dumping and storing of solid and hazardous waste is a violation of the laws protecting the Commonwealth’s natural resources,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Through this action, the violations will be addressed.”
According to the lawsuit, defendants uncovered drums of waste oil and hydrochloric acid at the site and then transported and stored those drums of hazardous material without a license and without complying with any applicable safety regulations.
The defendants also allegedly failed to notify MassDEP that sampling revealed hazardous materials, including known carcinogens, in the soil at the property, which is unfenced and located near an elementary school.
The AG’s Office is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to restore the damaged wetlands, to remove the solid and hazardous waste, and to clean up hazardous materials at the Salisbury property. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Turner Smith and Meghan Davoren, both of Attorney General Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with the assistance of Senior Regional Counsel Colleen McConnell, and technical staff members John Morey, Elizabeth Sabounjian, Mark Fairbrother, and Iris Davis, of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.
Berkshire Power Manager Sentenced for Conspiring to Tamper with Air Pollution Monitors
The former operations and maintenance manager of Berkshire Power Plant in Agawam, Massachusetts, has been sentenced for tampering with environmental monitors in violation of the CAA.
Fred Baker, of Southampton, Massachusetts, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to 30 months of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $5,000. In May 2016, Baker pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the CAA and conspiracy.
Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb stated, “This case demonstrates our continued commitment to protect our natural resources and to hold accountable those who subvert environmental protections for profit.”
“This defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud energy and environmental regulations for his own profit,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “We will vigorously defend laws and regulations put in place to protect the air we breathe and public health and safety.”
“Baker schemed with others to undermine a system that depends on honest data reporting—resulting in an unfair competitive advantage over responsible companies,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Boston. “EPA will continue to pursue cases that maintain data integrity, so we can do our job to protect clean air.”
“MassDEP inspectors and enforcement personnel worked closely with our state and federal enforcement partners to detect the scheme to subvert important and mandatory air quality reporting requirements and follow up with strong action, “ said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The requirements for accurate monitoring and reporting are essential to protecting public health, and those who circumvent these important regulations will be held accountable for their actions.”
From 2008 to March 2011, Baker, at the direction of the Berkshire Power Plant’s General Manager, instructed employees at the plant to tamper with the plant’s Continuous Emissions Monitoring System (CEMS). The CEMS is an environmental monitoring system, required by federal laws and permits, which continuously samples a power plant’s emissions and measures and records the concentration of regulated pollutants to monitor compliance with pollution emission limits. The purpose of the tampering was to delay repairs and avoid reporting to federal and state regulators that the plant was, at times, releasing certain pollutants, specifically nitrogen oxides, in excess of the plant’s CAA permit limits.
Initially, the tampering involved lowering monitors by a constant rate—approximately 0.5 parts per million (ppm) below the known value. These constant adjustments did not trigger any alarms or warnings and were thus usually maintained in the system through approximately mid-March 2011.
In the summer of 2009 and 2010 the plant underwent an independent annual audit. Prior to the audit, Baker instructed another employee to take out the adjustments in the CEMS monitors and to re-introduce them after the audit. Berkshire Power Plant reported the results of the audit to MassDEP and the U.S. EPA.
By 2010, this 0.5 ppm adjustment was not sufficient enough to allow the plant to run at full power and comply with the facility’s CAA permit. Rather than making necessary repairs, the General Manager and Baker instructed employees to lower the CEMS readings even more to avoid reporting pollution emissions in excess of the hourly limits or hitting warning levels.
In 2015, the Berkshire Power Plant was charged jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for tampering with its air pollution monitoring equipment and falsely reporting data to environmental and energy regulators regarding its emissions levels and its availability to produce power.
In March 2017, Berkshire Power Company and Power Plant Management Services, the owners and operators of the plant, respectively, were ordered to pay $7.25 million in fines, penalties and other payments for their role in tampering with air pollution emissions equipment. The Instrument and Control Technician at the plant, Scott Paterson, pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8, 2017.
EPA Announces Superfund Task Force
As part of his continued effort to prioritize Superfund cleanups, Administrator Scott Pruitt announced on May 22 the creation of a Superfund task force to provide recommendations within 30 days on how the EPA can streamline and improve the Superfund program, including:
- Expediting the cleanup process;
- Reducing the burden on cooperating parties; incentivizing parties to remediate sites;
- Encouraging private investment in cleanups and sites; promoting the revitalization of properties across the country; and
- Establishing and strengthening partnerships.
This action follows Administrator Pruitt’s recent directive that authority to select remedies estimated to cost $50 million or more be retained by the Administrator to help revitalize contaminated sites faster.
EPA to Enhance Communication with East Chicago Residents
Following EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent visit to the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Illinois, EPA is taking steps to enhance communication and provide better service to East Chicago residents. This includes designating a community involvement coordinator to serve as a dedicated point of contact for East Chicago residents; monthly community meetings with EPA; and coordination with the East Chicago/Calumet Coalition Community Advisory Group and other community organizations as cleanup continues.
“When I met with East Chicago residents, I heard their issues first-hand and vowed to help correct these problems,” said Administrator Pruitt. “I am making it a priority to ensure contaminated sites get cleaned up. We will take a more hands-on approach to ensure proper oversight and attention to the Superfund program at the highest levels of the Agency.”
“As Administrator Pruitt highlighted during his visit to East Chicago last month, collaboration between the EPA, the State, and local East Chicago leaders is critical to addressing past issues on this Superfund site,” Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb said. “I thank the Administrator for taking these important steps and for demonstrating his continued commitment to Hoosiers in northwest Indiana.”
“Administrator Pruitt recognized that the USS Lead Superfund site was important enough to serve as the first Superfund site that he visited. His continued attention is appreciated. This should be the standard at all sites where residents are exposed to hazardous contamination,” said East Chicago resident Maritza Lopez, who met with Administrator Pruitt when he visited the USS Lead Superfund site.
EPA is taking the following steps to enhance communication with East Chicago residents:
- Provide a dedicated, experienced community involvement coordinator as a direct point of contact for all residents with questions and concerns;
- Publicize the hotline number (219-801-2199), available to residents during business hours;
- Host monthly community meetings to provide updates and answer questions from residents;
- Maintain an EPA presence at the Carrie Gosch Elementary School so residents can easily stop in and speak to EPA employees;
- Track all resident inquiries in a database to ensure responses are provided in a timely manner;
- Continue to meet regularly with local, state and federal partners to keep officials apprised of EPA’s work and data collection in the community; and
- Regularly update the USS Lead Superfund website and add frequently asked questions.
More information is available at https://www.epa.gov/uss-lead-superfund-site.
EPA Review Projects Long-Term Success for Hudson River PCB Cleanup
The EPA has released for public comment its second review of the historic cleanup of PCB-contaminated sediment from the upper Hudson River. The review concludes that the Hudson River cleanup is working as designed and, while not yet protective, is expected to accomplish its long-term goal of protection of human health and the environment when the cleanup is completed. In the interim, the State of New York has fishing restrictions and advisories in place to control human consumption of contaminated fish. Under the Superfund law, cleanups generally must be reviewed every five years after construction starts on a project to determine if they are working as intended and remain protective of human health and the environment.
EPA’s second five-year review is the culmination of an eleven-month evaluation process which included collecting new data, conducting an objective analysis of project activities and a quantitative analysis of all available fish, water and sediment data. The more than 1000-page report includes a detailed technical assessment and various technical data evaluations as appendices. The five-year review acknowledges that as many as eight or more years of post-dredging fish data may be needed to establish, with a high degree of confidence, a long-term statistical trend in levels of PCBs in the fish. The report is available at www.epa.gov/hudson.
“EPA followed the requirements of the federal Superfund law and used the best available science to conduct this review,” said Acting Regional Administrator Catherine McCabe. “The question that the five-year review asks is ‘do we still think the cleanup decision we made in 2002 will provide long-term protection of human health and the environment?’ Based on the information and data that we have today, that answer is yes.”
This five-year review included a rigorous and unprecedented stakeholder and community engagement process, with the EPA convening a 20-member five-year review team of EPA experts, state and federal agency representatives, and community stakeholders. Three public workshops were also held while the review was underway. All input received was considered during the review process.
The EPA’s two-part cleanup plan called for the targeted environmental dredging of approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, New York, followed by a period of monitored natural recovery. Dredging began in 2009 and was completed in 2015. It was one of the largest and most logistically complex environmental dredging projects ever undertaken in the U.S., and resulted in the removal of about 2.75 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment. Approximately 310,000 pounds of PCBs were permanently removed from the river – twice the mass anticipated – representing an estimated 72% reduction in the overall mass of PCBs in the Upper Hudson River. The first five-year review for the site was conducted in 2012.
This second five-year review considered all available data, including all fish, water, and sediment data collected over the past five years, but necessarily reflects only a single year of data about the post-dredging state of the river and fish. Because dredging was completed in 2015, the fish collected for sampling in both spring and fall 2016 were still affected by elevated PCBs levels during the dredging project.
The data collected since the last five-year review show that the results are generally consistent with what EPA expected. The 2016 fish data suggest that the fish have begun to recover from dredging impacts and are generally back to pre-dredging levels. However, the 2016 data alone are not sufficient to evaluate post-dredging trends.
“The early information that we have for sediment, water and fish is encouraging. In the years ahead, we will collect more data to identify long-term trends,” said Acting Regional Administrator Catherine McCabe. “While the project was designed to set the river on a course for recovery, we have always explained that the recovery will take many years. It is not possible for the fish to fully recover immediately after the conclusion of dredging.”
As expected, average PCB concentrations in fish in the Upper Hudson are declining but have not yet reached protective levels. When EPA made its cleanup decision in 2002, the agency predicted that it would take years after dredging is completed for PCB levels in fish to reach levels where the existing fish consumption advisories may begin to be relaxed, and decades before fish can safely be eaten frequently. As a result, the fish consumption advisories are a necessary component of the site remedy. This is typical for Superfund sediment cleanup sites across the country. Since 1976, high levels of PCBs in fish have led New York State to close various recreational fisheries and to issue advisories restricting the consumption of fish caught in the Hudson River.
As natural recovery of the river continues, human exposure to PCB-contaminated fish will continue to be controlled through fishing restrictions and fish consumption advisories issued by New York State. EPA set interim targets for the reduction of PCBs in fish tissue that would allow New York State to adjust the advisories and loosen the restrictions over time. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) controls adjustments to the advisories. Hudson River-area residents who eat fish are encouraged to closely review and adhere to the advisories set by New York State. The five-year review includes a discussion of some of the efforts New York State has taken to improve the effectiveness of the advisories. EPA will continue to work closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and NYSDOH to improve their fish advisory outreach program.
The sediment cleanup is now transitioning from the dredging phase of the project to a robust monitoring phase that will track the long-term recovery of the river over time to confirm that the cleanup is functioning as intended. This includes monitoring of sediment, fish, water, reconstructed habitats, and the caps that were placed in some of the areas of the river where PCBs remained.
If the EPA determines that the recovery is not occurring as expected, the EPA will evaluate next steps. The next five-year review is expected to be completed in 2022.
The next major component of the cleanup of the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site is now underway, and includes a comprehensive study of PCB contamination in low-lying areas of the Upper Hudson River that are subject to flooding, called the floodplains. Extensive soil sampling was conducted in 2016 and will continue in 2017.
As part of his continued effort to prioritize Superfund cleanups, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced the creation of a Superfund task force to provide recommendations within 30 days on how the EPA can streamline and improve the Superfund program. EPA will look for ways to streamline and improve the Superfund program, with a focus on identifying best practices with regional Superfund programs, reducing the amount of time between identification of contamination at a site and determination that a site is ready for reuse, encouraging private investment at sites during and after cleanup, and realigning incentives of all involved parties to foster faster cleanups.
The five-year review report is available at www.epa.gov/hudson. During the 30-day public comment period, comments can be sent by mail or email to:
Gary Klawinski, Director
EPA Region 2, Hudson River Office
187 Wolf Road, Suite 303
Albany, NY 12205
The EPA plans to hold two public information meetings during the public comment period, and will announce dates and locations soon.
To view a statement issued by Basil Seggos—the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) Commissioner—on the U.S. EPA’s Five-Year Review Report on Hudson River Dredging, click here.
EPA Takes Steps to Improve Water Quality in Mystic Tributaries near Belmont, Massachusetts
The EPA has entered into an agreement with the Town of Belmont, Massachusetts, to address stormwater discharges of pollutants to the Mystic River watershed. While the town has completed several rounds of sewer repairs over the past few years, recent EPA data indicated sewage from cracked and leaking sewers was making its way into the storm drain system and discharging to surface waters in the Mystic River watershed, including Winn’s Brook, Wellington Brook, and the Little River.
The agreement, in the form of an Administrative Order on Consent, requires the town to submit an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Plan, assess its sanitary sewer system, and remove all illicit discharges to the system within five years. If removal within five years is not possible, the town must submit a schedule to EPA for approval.
This agreement is part of a larger effort by EPA New England, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and communities to improve water quality within the Mystic River watershed. Each year, EPA New England – in collaboration with the Mystic River Watershed Association – issues a Water Quality Report Card for the Mystic River Watershed. During the 2015 calendar year, tributaries feeding the Mystic River in Belmont including Winn’s Brook, Little River, and Alewife Brook received grades ranging from “F” to “D+” based on poor bacterial water quality.
EPA used advanced monitoring techniques, such as the forensic analyses of selected pharmaceutical compounds commonly found in sewage, to identify illicit discharges of sewage to the storm drain system. This effort has allowed EPA to inform communities of exactly where illicit discharges are occurring so they can be addressed as quickly as possible.
As part of the Boston Harbor cleanup effort, EPA New England enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act (CWA) have eliminated in excess of 37,000 gallons of sewage per day from discharging to storm drains in the Mystic River watershed, and have eliminated nearly 200,000 gallons per day of sewage discharging to the Boston Harbor watershed as a whole.
For more information about EPA’s Mystic River efforts, go to www.epa.gov/mysticriver.
Pennsylvania DEP Claims that EPA Budget Threatens Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air, and Job Creation
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell has warned the Pennsylvania congressional delegation that the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to environmental protection and clean energy programs will threaten Pennsylvania residents and businesses.
“The proposed cuts in the Trump administration’s budget, if enacted, would risk the safe drinking water of more than 10 million Pennsylvanians; and that’s just one program area,” said McDonnell. “The proposed budget also cuts funds for air quality monitoring, sewage treatment plant inspections, and land cleanup programs that put Pennsylvanians to work.”
In his letter addressed to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, McDonnell warns that significantly reducing federal funding risks safe water, stifles job creation, and allows harmful pollutants to poison Pennsylvania air. Cuts to key U.S. EPA program areas, if enacted, would mean:
- 30% fewer inspections of Pennsylvania’s 8,500 public water systems
- Cuts to radon and lead risk programs, putting children especially at risk from these toxic substances
- 30% cut to air quality funding, leading to limited air quality monitoring and longer wait times for businesses seeking air permits
- Cutting funds to remove and cleanup damage from leaking underground storage tanks by 50%, putting groundwater sources at risk from leaking chemical storage tanks
The proposed budget also makes drastic cuts to Department of Energy programs that create jobs and provide economic benefits to Pennsylvania residents and businesses through energy efficiency programs, new technology, and increased resilience and reliability of the electrical grid.
“These programs pay dividends far beyond the investment in the form of jobs, lower utility bills for Pennsylvania families, and new growth opportunities for the economy,” said McDonnell. “Enacting the drastic cuts of the Trump administration’s budget only hamstrings Pennsylvania’s future.”
Asbestos Program Transfer from Ohio Department of Health to Ohio EPA
Ohio EPA is anticipating the passage of Ohio’s Biennium Budget for Fiscal Year 2018–2019 by the 132nd Ohio General Assembly in the Summer of 2017. If enacted, this bill would transfer the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Asbestos program to the Ohio EPA Asbestos program. This would allow the director of environmental protection to adopt the rules governing asbestos hazard abatement contractors, specialists, project designers, workers, training courses, and other professionals currently existing and regulated by ODH in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Chapter 3701-34.
The first step in the rule-making process is for Ohio EPA to identify that a rule needs to be amended, rescinded, or created. In response to EO 2011-01K, Ohio EPA has added an additional step to ensure stakeholders are brought into the rule process as early as possible. This additional interested party notification and request for information will allow for early feedback before the rule language has been developed by the Agency.
Ohio EPA will be adopting the rules currently existing in OAC Chapter 3701-34 into Ohio EPA’s Section 3745 of the OAC. The agency will evaluate and make changes as appropriate to conflicting definitions to ensure clarity for the regulated community.
Lawsuit Seeks Documents from EPA’s Closed-door Meetings
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration on June 1 for public records of closed-door meetings between the U.S. EPA, states, and industry groups over weakening wetlands protections under the CWA.
President Trump directed the EPA to rewrite regulations determining whether wetlands are protected as “waters of the United States” under the CWA. Trump’s executive order could potentially eliminate CWA protections for millions of acres of wetlands, which are critical to water purification, ecosystem health, and habitat for hundreds of endangered species.
“The Clean Water Act is our most important safeguard for the health of the nation’s waters and wetlands, so the public has a right to know why Trump’s EPA is doing the bidding of special-interest polluters,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “It’s a sad irony that EPA’s response to concerns about closed-doored meetings has been to close its own doors and shut the public out.”
Executive Order 13778, signed by Trump February 28, 2017, ordered the EPA to weaken protections for wetlands. The Center submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA in March, after press reports of closed-door meetings between the agency and industry representatives on how to soften regulatory safeguards for wetlands.
The Center’s suit also seeks records relating to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s involvement in these new efforts to weaken protections for wetlands—which would directly affect his home state of Oklahoma—in potential violation of his ethics agreement. During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt promised to recuse himself from all litigation matters in which the state of Oklahoma is a party.
Earlier this month the Center filed suit to force the EPA to make public Pruitt’s emails and schedule. Despite the routine nature of such a request, the agency illegally refused to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and continues to refuse to produce any records.
“Scott Pruitt is rapidly turning the EPA into the least transparent, least accountable agency in the federal government, just so he can protect the secrecy of special interests that are calling the shots,” said Hartl. “The agency’s refusal to release these public documents shows just how far this administration will go to put our environment and the health of ordinary Americans on the chopping block.”